How to Make a Colorful Silk Scarf in Under an Hour

Let us introduce you to ice dyeing, AKA the best bachelorette party DIY.

photography by COURTNEY DENTON


Is there anything grosser than the Vegas-style bachelorette party featuring cheap champagne, a white limo, and a male stripper with a waxed chest named Willie? This old-school hen party bacchanalia has become the first resort for even the most tasteful, sentient woman when it comes to celebrating their about-to-be-betrothed best friend… but why? It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Enter Julie Schumacher, textile artist and founder of Brooklyn-based home good shop Of This Century, who has perfected the art of the artful and alternative DIY bachelorette party activity: ice dyeing silk scarves. “It’s just the greatest thing for a bunch of women to do together,” she says. “And you don’t need to have a background in art to partake. You can be messy and imprecise as you want and it will still come out beautifully.” (In other words, the perfect craft to mix with cocktails.) 

So forgo the molly and the vodka cranberries in favor of silk scarves, ice cubes, soda ash, and dye, and get to work—you’ll never have to play Pin The Tail On The Penis again.

photography by MIKEY NEFF


How-To: Colorful Ice-Dyed Silk Scarves 

Materials:
  • Soda ash or a mild dish detergent
  • Bucket for prepping fabric
  • Habotai silk scarves
  • A nice assortment of fiber-reactive dyes (I like Jacquard Procion MX or dyes from Dharma Trading)
  • Bowls that will not be used for food
  • Crushed ice
  • A cooler
  • Small spoons or popsicle sticks
  • Gloves
  • Hair dryer or space heater
  • Mask
  • Tape for waterproof tags
  • Marker (for initialing tags)

1. Prep the fabric.

Find a plastic bucket or a stainless steel pot (not aluminum) large enough for the fabric to move freely. Fill the bucket with hot water. In a separate bowl, add ¾ teaspoon of Soda Ash and 1/8 cup of hot water and mix until completely dissolved. Then add the Soda Ash mixture to the bucket of hot water. 

Wet each scarf in the sink before adding it to the bucket and gently stir every 5-10 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the scarves and rinse them. Squeeze out excess water and put them in a plastic bag to keep them damp. You can always prep the scarves the night before—just place damp scarves in a plastic bag and keep them in a cool and dark place.

2. Prep your dye station.

Cover the dye area and wear an apron or clothes that can get dye on them. Set up the station with an assortment of dry powder dyes, some dishes, spoons, the prepped scarves, napkins, and ice stored in a cooler. It’s best if the station is set up next to an area with proper ventilation and no wind.

3. Dye away!

Place the wet scarves in a dish, scrunching the fabric with lots of peaks, and then cover it completely with ice. Sprinkle different colors of dyes on top, covering completely or leaving some white spaces if you wish. The dry dyes are very concentrated, so a little will go a long way. 

4. Melt, wash, and dry.

Let the ice melt as much as possible—ideally the ice would melt entirely and the scarf would sit for 24 hours, but for parties I usually allow about 20 minutes, or until the powder dye is wet and mostly absorbed into the scarf. Then dump the ice and rinse the scarf with cool water until the water goes clear. To get a bit more vivid color you can put the ice dye trays near a space heater or blast with a hair dryer after all the dye dust is wet, which helps make it more vibrant.

photography by MIKEY NEFF


Q&A with Julie Schumacher, textile artist and founder of Brooklyn-based home good Of This Century.

How did you get into ice dyeing?
I grew up knitting and weaving and one day it just appealed to me to dip my hands in dye. I had no idea what ice dyeing was, but I was looking at different classes and I saw a photo of the product. I ended up taking an hour-long class, and I was blown away by how fast and easy the process was. I had spent twelve years as a letterpress printer which is very precise and clean.
 
Is there a way for this process to be all-natural?
Yes! If you use natural dye you will need to fix the fabric beforehand with mordant, which will help the dye bond to the material's fibers.
 
Why is this good for a bachelorette party?
It’s a great project for people who might not have any arts, craft, or making background. It’s more fun to just play with it and experiment. I would suggest doing a test drive before you host a party to familiarize yourself with the process. It can get messy and it dyes your clothes so it’s good to have some control.
 
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever ice-dyed?
So much! Quilts, summer blankets, beach towels, and a shower curtain.
 
What if it’s a hot day and the ice melts?
It’s great if the ice melts quickly. You just want to dump out the muddy dye water as it’s melting. When I do this at home I’ll put it in a colander and put it over a bucket so that the ice melts the water drips out. Just keep the cooler out of the sun.
 
What types of fabrics can you dye?
You can dye any fabrics except for certain plastic materials.  

Published on August 02, 2017 - 5:00pm EDT

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